Tony Stark, being a famed inventor, entrepreneur, and futurist, has invented his fair share of weird one-off technologies over the years. This technology has been incorporated into the Iron Man armor from time to time.
At the core of the character of Iron Man is innovation and invention, and in the comics, this has led to some truly bizarre armor features. Though the movies didn’t have quite enough screen time to include some of the features that were mainstays in the comics for years, they managed to pack in some crazy cool gadgets of their own.
Suffice it to say, there have been some truly whacky innovations crammed into the technological wonder that is the Iron Man suit over the years, and some that have stood the test of time, while others have become more dated than dinosaur bones.
With that said, here are the 15 Suit Abilities That Iron Man Has Only Ever Used Once.
15 Turning into a flying car
It is a scientifically proven fact that anything can be made more awesome by having it transform into something else. For example, look at Transformers and Robotech, which both allowed robots to transform into other shapes.
Iron Man has frequently been compared to Japanese armored heroes like Kamen Rider and Kikaider, so it’s only fitting that he should be able to embrace the classic anime hero ability of transforming a vehicle into something else. In this case, Tony Stark created a flying car that could transform around him into a massive, bulky suit very reminiscent of his MCU Hulkbuster armor.
However, at one point the armor is melted around him after taking a heat blast from the Warbringer. Stuck, he needs to be rescued by Vision, and remarks that the armor is “a one-off,” as there are still a lot of issues with it. So unfortunately we won't be seeing it again anytime soon.
14 Hand-to-hand fight pattern analyzer
Welcome to the first of many instances where Iron Man uses out a gadget for the first time that should become a part of his permanent collection. When Tony’s back is to the wall as Captain America is walloping him in Captain America: Civil War, his suit's artificial intelligence Friday informs him that he can’t defeat Cap hand-to-hand.
Instantly, Tony orders Friday to “analyze his fight pattern.” In seconds, she has countermeasures ready, and Stark promptly lays Cap out with a combination of fisticuffs and carefully placed repulsor blasts.
It’s a nifty moment of Tony using his technology to gain the upper hand against Cap's brute force, but you gotta wonder why he doesn’t give that order every time he flies into a fighting situation. Maybe it only works with punching.
13 Auxiliary rocket skates
If you thought that repulsor boots were Tony’s only foot-based form of locomotion, then you would be wrong. Back when roller rinks were all the rage, the Iron Man suit incorporated a pair of regular old skates supplemented with rockets that were used to get Iron Man around when he was low on power-- or just wanted to feel extra-groovy.
They do make a bit of sense as a backup to his jet boots, but they would really only work if Iron Man was fighting in an urban environment. If his power reserves were drained or his jet boots were broken, all you’d have to do to defeat him was convince him to go into a forest or up a hill.
Then, just sit back and watch the hilarity as Tony was forced to hoof it up an incline wearing heavy, sweaty metal, cursing and rolling backwards every couple of feet. Perhaps it makes sense why these were never used again.
12 Built-in suit slide rule
Long ago, scientists, mathematicians, and engineers didn’t have access to computers when they needed to work out complex physics in a hurry. Enter the humble, analog slide rule.
You’ve probably only seen one in a museum or in an older movie dealing with science, such as Apollo 13. However, for some reason it shows up in a 1960s Iron Man comic as a feature on his suit-- you know, the suit that can also fly and shoot beams of energy thanks to the power of transistors; the suit worn by a hero who has become synonymous with bleeding-edge technological progress,
It’s one of those things that must have made perfect sense to audiences who were used to associating slide rules with science at the time. Whatever the reason, when Tony Stark needed to calculate some arcs and angles in Tales of Suspense #50, he was able to bust out this handy gadget.
11 A rocket booster used to fly into space
Sometimes, the simplest solution is just to strap a rocket onto something. While Iron Man has had suits throughout the years that have enough thrust and power to reach orbit, strapping a rocket onto his legs is the best method for situations when he needs-- or merely wants-- to blast as fast as possible into space.
When he realized that Justin Hammer had bought cutting-edge armor from him using shell corporations to hide his identity, Tony used a solid rocket booster rig so that he could get into space to confront Hammer at his orbiting space station with the Model 18 Iron Man armor.
Given that the armor was a bare-bones stealth version that only had compressed-air thrusters for maneuvering, he pretty much had to resort to shoving rockets on his legs to break orbit.
10 Briefcase portability
For years, Iron Man’s suit was a distinctly cloth-like and form-fitting costume, made out of woven metal fibers (don’t think about it too hard). This meant that, in the comics, Tony Stark’s costume was as portable as any other superhero’s get-up. He frequently kept his Iron Man suit in his briefcase, where he could easily access it and leap into action at a moment’s notice.
Naturally, when the Iron Man 2 trailer featured a shot of Tony Stark unpacking a metallic briefcase and taking out a portable set of armor in the middle of a Monaco racetrack, fans were ecstatic. This was a wonderful example of ingenious planning ahead on Tony's part... which was never used again.
Seriously, with his money and manufacturing abilities, he could keep a briefcase like this in every single car and plane he owns, just in case. It would have really come in handy when Bucky broke out of his containment cell in Captain America: Civil War when Stark was left with only an Iron Glove to defend himself and almost got his head blown off.
9 Bio-neural gel packs
In Black Panther Vol. 3 #44, Iron Man battled Black Panther and an older version of Black Panther using armor Model 21 while investigating a time travel conspiracy. It was a type of stealth armor, but was completely non-metallic (how this works with repulsor rays and jet-boots, no one knows).
However, its main circuitry was apparently made up of “bio-neural gel packs." Depending on what generation of Star Trek you are a fan of, you might know that this is a reference to Star Trek: Voyager. The USS Voyager’s computer runs on “bio-neural gel packs."
Luckily, Tony’s suit faired way better running on BNGP than the Voyager did-- its bio-neural gel packs were, in one episode, defeated by the bacteria from cheese that the ship’s cook prepared. This wasn't a joke. In fact, the ship’s doctor has to analyze the cheese to fix it. However, as far as Iron Man goes, the BNGP were not used again.
8 Shrinking technology and microsurgery equipment
It seems like sci-fi comics and TV shows are legally required to provide whole-episode homages to Fantastic Voyage at least once during their run, and Iron Man is no exception. Stark is at least friends with a hero whose whole gimmick is size-changing, which makes the plot feel somewhat more organic than usual.
The collaboration between Hank Pym and Tony involved Pym loaning him shrinking technology so that the Iron Man armor could become microscopic. Equipped with microsurgery equipment, Tony entered the body of a paralyzed Captain America. As a result of the super-soldier serum in his blood deteriorating, Cap had been rendered immobile, so Tony shrank down to implant a biochip in him to cure his paralysis.
Pym has always been stingy with his technology, so it makes sense that Tony hasn’t had access to shrinking tech again for his suit.
7 Time travel
Time travel is just too useful and too powerful as a narrative device. Unless an author puts limits on how or when time travel can be used, it runs the risk of the audience asking, “why don’t they just fix or resolve everything with time travel?”
This is probably why writers only incorporated a method to time travel into Iron Man's armor once, as part of the comics miniseries Iron Man: Kiss and Kill. Tony was able to modify his armor to be able to time travel using components from Doctor Doom’s Time Platform (which is an actual piece of technology and not a progressive rock band from the '60s).
It’s a little weird that the bad guys have time traveling technology, but the good guys decided to throw it away after one use. You’d think that they’d want to keep it around, at least as a last resort.
6 Disguise hologram
In the comics, Tony Stark has been making stealth armor since the Cold War, complete with electronic countermeasures, jamming devices, and an ice-cold all-black color scheme.
Nowadays, stealth has become a lot more complicated-- both in real life and in comics-- and new authors of the Iron Man comics are constantly adding more features to the old stealth suit as they see fit. One of these features should have been in every stealth suit. It is the ability to project a hologram around the suit to disguise it as whoever Tony Stark needs to be in an infiltration situation.
So essentially any time the Avengers needed to take down a base full of bad guys, this feature would be indispensable and provide them with the upper hand. Just fire up the disguise hologram and pretend to be a guard, or one of the janitors, and take the base down from the inside.
Additionally, if the bad guys somehow see through the disguise somehow and raise the alarm, then Stark would have a suit of armor that fires energy beams, as well as a super-team, to back him up.
5 Radiation absorption/decontamination
Iron Man actually has a lot in common with the Hulk-- they're both heroes born of technology. In Hulk’s case, his powers and abilities are due to technology going horribly wrong. Like Iron Man, Hulk’s enemies are usually just evil versions of himself with slight variations, almost all of them empowered by the same gamma radiation that mutated Bruce Banner.
However, this is one suit that could really help Hulk out, at least if it were used more than once. In the Model 26 Iron Man armor, Bruce teamed up with Tony to take down a government conspiracy. He integrated a special compound into his armor that not only rendered it theoretically impervious to radiation, but also allowed the suit to decontaminate irradiated areas.
Unfortunately, a problem with the suit’s fluid circulation almost led to Tony getting gamma poisoning before the Hulk stepped in to help fix it. At least in this case it’s pretty clear why the one-off gadget was never used again.
4 Exterior suit electrification
Electrification seems like a pretty unremarkable feature. It actually seems like a no-brainer that every suit should be able to do, if only as a security feature should someone try to access the suit without authorization.
In Iron Man 3, it’s featured in a clever and endearingly goofy sequence where Tony Stark uses it to rescue people who’ve been sucked out of the Air Force One. By electrifying his suit while holding hands with a flight attendant, he clenches her grip around the hand of another crew member, who grips another, who grips another, allowing the charge to go through their bodies.
It’s an example of why Tony Stark is so easy to root for: he zeroes in on a quirky, unique, and brilliant solution to any situation. Still, this feature would have been useful in Avengers: Age of Ultron when they have to facilitate a massive evacuation of Sokovia. While Tony is capable of coming up with fantastical solutions on the spot, he apparently forgets them just as easily.
3 Liquid metal armor
Given how popular Terminator 2: Judgment Day was, it’s a wonder why more comics and movies haven’t ripped off the main villain’s shapeshifting liquid metal gimmick. Tony Stark did when he designed the Endo-Sym Armor, aka Model 50, a hybrid of “liquid smart metal” and symbiote technology (you know, the thing that made Spider-Man disco-dance in Spider-Man 3).
The coolest feature of the suit was the fact that it could morph into anything related to Tony’s needs, and could even draw in more smart metal compound in order to increase its size and strength, which basically allowed the armor to Hulk-out in response to greater physical threats.
In a way, it really is Tony Hulking-out, because the armor was bonded to his own biological structure, which is a great idea that could never possibly go horribly wrong.
2 Protective force field
A lot of Iron Man’s abilities that are only seen once in the MCU have a long history in the comics. Obviously, with less screen time to devote, some gadgets get sidelined, which makes viewers ask, “why isn’t that in every suit?”
Enter the Silver Centurion suit, which was Stark’s main Iron Man armor for a while in the comics. One of the newfangled features of the suit in the comics was a protective forcefield that could repel almost any attack. However, it only functioned for a minute or two due to the massive power needed.
Still, it was a handy feature that saved his life more than once, and one which was incorporated into one of the suits Tony uses in the climax of Iron Man 3. It’s one of the suits Tony actually hops into, and it boggles the mind that he didn’t include forcefields into any of his other suits.
1 Stealth technology
Oddly enough, the only time when Tony Stark uses stealth technology in his suits in the Marvel movies is in the background of Iron Man 3. Granted, Tony has never been one for subtlety in the movies, but you’d think a stealth suit would come in handy, allowing him to act as a first-strike weapon for the Avengers and providing him with the ability to sneak into evil lairs to soften up the bad guys before the rest of the team put the hurt on them.
The stealth armor named “Sneaky” is seen in the background and as cannon fodder for Extremis soldiers in the climax of Iron Man 3. It does get the distinction of being the last Iron Man suit that Tony wears before deciding to give up being Iron Man and self-destruct his suits. Or, at least until Avengers: Age of Ultron, where he’s suddenly Iron Man again and has more advanced armor and Iron Drones.
Can you think of any other Iron Man suit features that Tony Stark only used once? Let us know in the comment section!